A tale of two bills
One would bar officials with moral turpitude, one would handcuff the police
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid introduced a bill he sponsored this week that would extend the law banning common citizens convicted of crimes of moral turpitude from serving in public positions to include cabinet ministers, MKs, and mayors of local authorities.
“In the State of Israel of 2017 you cannot be an architect, a real estate agent, a customs agent or an engineer for a local authority, if you’ve been convicted of a felony which involves moral turpitude,” he noted. “You may not be an insurance agent, definitely not an educator, or a doctor, or a veterinarian, you cannot get a license to work as an electrician or be a manager of a medical laboratory, if you’ve been convicted of a felony which involves moral turpitude.
Lapid further observed that a person’s “license to practice as a social worker, or even as an optician, can be withdrawn if you are accused of a criminal offense which involves moral turpitude. You may not serve on the board of Bezeq or as a counselor for smoking prevention. You may not be a driver for a minister, Knesset member or mayor if you’ve been accused of a criminal offense which involves moral turpitude.”
However, he continued, “But you’ll have no problem being a minister, or a Knesset member, or a mayor, even if you have been convicted of a felony which involves moral turpitude.”
In apparent reference to the current investigation of Interior Minister Arye Deri of Shas, Lapid declared that the fact that a government minister had served prison time for corruption when he previously served as a minister, and is now once again being investigated for corruption since returning to that position, should serve as a wake-up call.
“We need to be able to trust our leaders and feel confident that they are making decisions devoid of personal interest, and are only serving the best interests of the country,” Lapid explained.
A related bill introduced this week would ban the police from making recommendations regarding the evidence from their investigations to prosecutors who would decide whether to file criminal charges against suspects. The bill would state that “The role of the police is to investigate facts, while a recommendation is a subjective interpretation that encroaches on the territory of the prosecution, which is authorized to decide whether to place someone on trial, not the police.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit have expressed reservations about this bill. State Attorney Shai Nitzan is flat out against it, explaining that the police don’t recommend whether to file charges, but simply inform prosecutors about the scope of the evidence.
This is helpful to the prosecutors, and enables cases to move through the system at an acceptable pace, Nitzan said. “I don’t see the point of the proposed bill,” he concluded. “It will cause a tortuous legal process for the suspects and the plaintiffs... the public has the right to know whether the police believe there is a body of evidence.”
The timing of this bill also smells of corruption. Passing such legislation – when the prime minister is being investigated in three separate cases nearing prosecution – calls into question the real goal of the bill. It certainly seems like the timing and purpose is to prevent the public from hearing what evidence the police actually has on the prime minister, thereby preventing a possible public outcry.
Incongruously, the first bill was rejected while the second bill passed its first reading. In other words, a bill which sought to prevent corruption was voted down, while one reeking of corruption was accepted.
Something is rotten in the State of Israel and we the people cannot remain silent. If we are members of coalition parties that supported corruption this Wednesday, then we must tell them that this is not acceptable.
More important, when the next election comes around, when deciding whom to vote for we should demand that each party clarify its position on these bills and the efforts being made to prevent corruption. Otherwise, we have no one to blame for government corruption other than ourselves.
The author is a former MK for Yesh Atid.